There are a few things in my life that I admit to being terrified of – spiders, heights and riding a bicycle. Though spiders and heights have always been fears of mine, I actually used to love riding a bicycle as a kid. I was that kid who was constantly falling off her bike because I was so determined to learn by myself and I loved it. Yet as I got older, the idea of biking became more and more terrifying to me. Maybe it was because there would always be a cycling accident reported in the local news. Or just the simple fact that cyclists have to share the road with cars. Whatever weird reason it was that made me terrified of riding a bike, the idea just never seemed appealing to me, especially in San Francisco.
Then I visited Copenhagen and Malmö – where bicycle culture flourishes. Riding a bicycle to explore two unfamiliar countries was exhilarating and it gave me the confidence that I needed to even consider biking in San Francisco. So long story short, I started researching my options once I returned from vacation. I knew that I didn’t want to risk having my own bicycle stolen (which seems to happen more often than not in the city) so I had two options; JUMP Bikes (electric) and Ford GoBike (regular and electric). Most people that I talked to recommended JUMP over Ford GoBike based on the ease of ride but I chose Ford GoBike based on the convenience of the stations and bike availability.
So as a non-experienced cyclist, here is what I learned after my first month of riding a bike to and from work in San Francisco.
Plan and test out different routes.
Some roads are much better for cyclists than others in San Francisco – check out the San Francisco Bike Network Map from SFMTA. I have my route planned so that I mostly go straight without having to make many turns. Part of the route is not as well paved but I’d rather have a slightly bumpy ride than have to cut across traffic on a busy road.
A whole new world.
From someone who loves to workout every day, I loved adding another activity to my day. Despite it still being slightly terrifying, I love the feeling of accomplishment that I get once I’m done with my bike ride to and from work.
Drake said it best, no new friends.
If you are expecting some sort of cyclist comradery in the city, prepare to be disappointed. If another cyclist ever acknowledges me, it is usually because I try to stay out of the way so that they can go faster and still be in the bike lane. I still try to smile at all of the other cyclists, wave at polite drivers, etc., maybe one day I’ll get a smile or wave back!
No one follows the laws.
But you still need to. I saw a cyclist get a warning from a police officer last week and it brought me a slight sense of gratification (hehe sorry).
Why people, why?!
Depending on the day, sometimes I feel like cyclists are mean, drivers are meaner and pedestrians are the worst. Other days, I get through my happy ride without a problem. From aggressive city drivers to oblivious pedestrians on their cell phones, navigating San Francisco roads presents a new adventure every time I ride. In the past month, I have been almost hit by a car once (she didn’t look before merging into oncoming traffic), honked at for stopping at a stop sign (I thought drivers get mad when cyclists DON’T follow the laws, guess you just can’t win here..) and cut off in the middle of the road by pedestrians who aren’t paying attention (good thing I was). But honestly, my first month of biking in San Francisco could have been a lot worse so I’ll take it.
eBikes are actually pretty awesome.
Although I was not initially sold on riding electric bikes, I finally tried one the other day. My initial feelings were mixed. The power of the bike was a little scary and I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t feel like I was getting a workout. Yet weirdly enough, I can’t wait until I have another opportunity to try one.
In conclusion, I’m one month in and still loving my new commute to work. While it does present some challenges, it is completely do-able provided that you stay alert and ride defensively.